Swanston to Banister
Given to me by Mr Thomas Bannister [Banister]. 5 Child's Place. Temple Bar.
HL Feby 22/56
4th January 1856 To Thomas Banister Esqre
5 Childs Place, London
San Francisco 4th January 1856
My dear Sir:
I arrived on the 29th Ult. from Vancouvers Island where I have been staying since I last addressed you. The Residents, as a last Effort to save the Colony, have begged of me to apply in the strongest terms to you to exert what influence you can bring to bear in their favor. Enclosed I send you such documents as they were enabled to furnish me with; the Copies of the Memorials to the Colonial Secretary, the House of Commons, and the Queen, forwarded last year, and of which you were to have been furnished with duplicates, having been in some way mislaid it was decided to place you in the best position possible, and leave it to yourself to do what you can.
On my arrival at Victoria I found that the Colonists were so disheartened at the apathy & indifference shewn by the Colonial office in re their grievances, that it required the strongest representations on my part, to induce them to make one more effort, however weak availing of your good offices; if one must die 'tis well to die doing. The feeling existing in the Colony is that the place is doomed; and there is Every probability, if matters do not mend, of a general Exodus shortly. I know of no fewer than Six families, who are preparing to leave this next Summer. Once the move commences 'twill be too late to attempt restoring Confidence by any patching compromises.
I trust that in writing you on the matter, and occupying your time, I am not taking any undue advantage of your Kind offer of services in favor of Vancouvers Island, and I sincerely hope that you may have the opportunity of doing something, however little, towards drawing the attention of the Government to that important place.
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The Colonists are all delighted at the Idea of having convicts introduced and they express themselves strongly as to the benefits likely to result to the Island by such a measure.
The War is raging with unabated violence on the American Shores of the Straits of Fuca; the Farmers and their families have either been Massacred, or found to fly into the little Townships along Pugets Sound for protection. The Nisqually and Puyallup Indians (fishers) and the Klileatats & Yahemassianie Indians, are as yet the only Tribes who have openly declared war, but they are using Every effort of persuasion & intimidation to induce the adjoining Tribes to side with them, & there is I believe but little doubt as to what will be the result of their Machinations. As yet the Vancouver Island Indians are quiet & apparently uninterested, but from personal investigation and through the Agency of Indians in my pay I have become Cognisant of a State of feeling amongst them which is not to be triffled with. The progress of the war is a matter of constant discussion with them, & the as yet successful efforts of the Red Skin is viewed with Evident satisfaction. The H.B.Co have been furnishing the Americans with powder & arms, and also have tendered the use of their Steamer on various occasions; this has not Escaped the notice of the Savages and the belief is current amongst them at present, that the King George Man (The British Subject) & the Bostons (Citizens of the United States) are allies, and that the ultimate destruction of the red skin is their object. The whites on Vancouvers Island are placed in a very difficult position, a position that requires an abler man at the head of affairs than Mr Douglas—Nous Verrons!
I have been endeavouring to secureManuscript image some Washington Territory Newspapers for you, but with small success. The call for Volunteers there has been so urgent that Editors and [printers] Devils have [been] forced to take up the Rifle and Bowie Knife, thus causing a cessation to the issue of "Gazette Extraordinary" the accompanying newspapers from that quarter will, though somewhat soiled [will] I trust not be unacceptable to you, and enable you to form a more correct idea of the State of affairs at the time of their issue than you can obtain by any other means.
The small bust herewith, though far from a favorable specimen of the talent of the Indian Sculptor, will suffice to give you an idea of their Ingenuity in the line; I have seen most beautiful work of this description by the Northern Indians; likenesses, so striking as to be recognised at a glance.
The fall of the Southern portion of Sebastopol was appropriately honored here by the Resident British and French; a Medal was struck on the occasion of which I forward you a specimen.
You will have noticed how successful our friend Walker is in Nicaragua, he shewed wisdom in refusing the Presidency. The sympathy for him here is very strong—by Every steamer volunteers flock to his standard, he has wealthy men at his back as you may Judge from the fact of an agent of his having, within the last few weeks endeavoured to purchase a Steamer shewing credits to the tune of $100,000.
Believe me My dear Sir
yours very truly
Robt S. Swanston
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
As I have no papers to refer to (they are in circulation with other V.C. Isld documents) I can only state from recollection that Mr Swanston sent home the complaints referred to in the Shape of Memorials to the Queen, & Houses of Parlt, without submitting them to the Governor—that we returned them for the necessary report of that Officer—that on the receipt thereof the whole question relating to the Admn of justice was brought under review—that the Law Officers were consulted by us on that subject—that those Authorities delayed even more than usual to give us their report, but that it was at last sent in on the 20th inst. It is indeed not suprising Colonists should think themselves forgotten, & that they feel it no use to apply to Govt for protection but resort to private persons to procure redress, when such a length of time elapses before their complaints are attended to: but you will bear me out that this Office has not delayed enquiry & investigation an hour longer than was avoidable. Now, however, the time seems approaching when the complainants will learn that their representations, though made at a distance, have been by no means unheeded.
With respect to the alleged unfitness of Mr Cameron, if you remember, this Office wrote to the Governor to inform him of the representations recd here against his nominee, and that the Governor ansd in a manner which was deemed satisfactory.
It might perhaps be desirable to acke the receipt of this Letter to Mr Bannister—tell him that the representations of Mr Swanston have not been neglected—that measures are in contemplation for placing the Adminn of justice in V.C.I. on a different footing, & that no unnecessary delay has taken place in this Office in investigating the complaints.
ABd 23/F
Mr Ball
I annex the material papers. It will be seen that Govr Douglas reported on these complaints (1918 of 1854) but that an answer to the Memorialists was postponed until the Order in C constituting a Supreme Court should pass.
The discontented colonists did not complain, nor have there been any complaints so far as I remember, of the absence of a regularly constituted court—which is all from which the Law Advisers have now at last relieved them. On the contrary, the memorialists here say they were satisfied with the original three magistrates. What they complain of is the (supposed legal) creation of a Court of Justice, & the selection of Mr Cameron as its Judge. But as usual there is nothing specific. The truth is, the few independent people are not & will not be content with Hudsons' Bay Companys' government: but what is the alternative?
HM F 25
Mr Labouchere
Though you will not be disposed to place great reliance on the statements of Mr Swanston, the friend of Walker of Nicaragua notoriety yet these papers deserve I think your perusal.
Though Mr Bannister has not written I suppose he may have the reply suggested by Mr Blackwood.
I may observe that in such a place as V. Island the good administration of justice depends far more on the man who administers it than on the form of the Court or the rules of procedure. I should think it a very important object to obtain the services of a steady respectable man of moderate legal attainments—of high personal character—& no connexion either with the H.B. Compy or any speculations in that region to preside in the Court.
JB Mar 5
This Paper has I notice yet not answer. I believe it is my own
fault. If any answer is necessary it shd be as Mr Blackwood advises.
HL June 13
Mr Blackwood
Will you have the goodness to draft the letter to Mr Swanston.
JB 21 Ju
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Ball to Swanston, 1 July 1856, explaining the arrangements that had been taken to establish a court of justice in Vancouver Island and the appointment of Cameron as chief justice.
Minutes by CO staff
Perhaps a copy shd go to the Govr.
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Draft, Ball to Thomas Banister, 1 July 1856, forwarding copy of the letter sent to Swanston.
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Draft reply, Labouchere to Douglas, No. 12, 8 July 1856.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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1. [Swanston to Banister], Vancouver Island, 20 December 1855, stating the accompanying letter had been presented to the committee appointed by the colonists, three of whom signed it (Cooper, Banfield, and Yates) and the other two (Langford and Skinner) strongly approved it but did not sign for fear the Hudson's Bay Company would retaliate against them and their families.
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2. Cooper, Banfield, and Yates to Banister, no date, complaining they had heard nothing from the petition forward to Downing Street nearly two years previously and forwarding copies of it and other papers and soliciting his aid.
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3. Petition, no date, addressed to Douglas and signed by 90 persons, protesting the appointment of Cameron and conditions generally in the colony.
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4. Memorandum, no date, describing unfavourably Cameron's background and behavior.
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5. Copy of a report, "Whig Resolutions," Puget Sound Courier, no date, advocating the acquisition of "the Sandwich Islands, Vancouver's Island, and all of British North America."
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6. Copy of "a Leading article from a Washington Territory paper," no date, entitled, "More Indian Depredations."
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7. Copy of an account from the Olympia Pioneer and Democrat, 23 November 1855, reporting a clash between regular troops and Indigenous forces.
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8. Copy of other reports, Pioneer and Democrat, 23 November 1855.